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Another guide to Antigua GFC for New York Red Bulls fans

RBNY's last game of the 2016-17 CCL group stage takes it to Guatemala with a better-than-good chance of progressing to the tournament's knockout rounds.

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

To be clear, the New York Red Bulls are the near-prohibitive favorite to advance to the 2016-17 CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals. Because Antigua needs to thrash its MLS group rival just to have a chance to progress. And because Antigua also needs FIFA to lift the threat of suspension that hangs over all of Guatemalan soccer if it is to be allowed to simply play its last group stage game.

So there is a lot Antigua needs to do on and off the pitch to make any further progress in this year's CCL.

What they've done since we last saw them

The big news is off the field: Antigua is tangled up in the dispute that might see Guatemalan soccer withdrawn from international competitions. That threat might see the team booted from CCL altogether, forced to forfeit its last home game, thereby rendering this match effectively irrelevant - even if Antigua achieves the unlikely requirement of a heavy win over RBNY.

On the pitch, the team has been in uneven form. Since losing 3-0 to the Red Bulls in CCL, Antigua has played eight league games: winning four and losing four. And it tied Alianza in CCL, 1-1, in El Salvador.

Its most recent results are back-to-back road losses. At home, it has won its last two fixtures, though it was trounced, 4-1, by league-leading Municipal on October 8.

As mlssoccer.com points out, this match isn't being played at Antigua's home stadium. It will be at the national stadium in Guatemala City. This is not an unusual occurrence in CCL, but it can often leave clubs some distance from their fans, and therefore lacking in the traditional advantages of home support.

Midfielder Kendell Herrarte and defender Luis Rodriguez are reportedly unavailable for the game against RBNY.

And there seems to be some sort of rogue-RBNY fan scam afoot in Antigua.

What they need to do against RBNY

Win. Win big. Antigua's remote chance of making it to the next round rests on winning both its remaining games, but it needs to win this particular one by the right margin.

The best Antigua can do is get seven points by winning its next two games.

wikipedia.org

Seven points only ties Antigua with RBNY. So the group would be settled by tie-breakers. And the first tie-breakers are head-to-head points, goal difference, and away goals. To even still be in the conversation about the quarterfinals, Antigua needs to level the head-to-head points and goal difference question by beating the Red Bulls 3-0, to match the win RBNY got in the teams' first encounter.

And if RBNY scores a goal in Guatemala, Antigua needs to win by FOUR goals, to eliminate the away-goal tiebreaker.

There is, as Antigua head coach Mauricio Tapia has said, "very little margin for error" for the home team.  It isn't just win-or-go-home for Antigua, it's win-big-or-go-home.

And, as if that weren't sufficient pressure, the team might not get out of the group - or even be allowed to play its last game of this stage - if FIFA follows through on its threat to suspend the Guatemalan Football Federation on October 1.

That matter also involves Antigua GFC: it was the suspension of players for the club by FIFA's "normalization committee" (Guatemalan soccer is being governed by FIFA proxies during a period of recovery from the global soccer corruption scandal that swept through CONCACAF and CONMEBOL in particular) that precipitated the events leading to the current standoff between world soccer's governing body and Guatemala's Confederacion Deportiva Autonoma de Guatemala.

Efforts to repair the breach in relations - which has seen CDAG suspend FIFA's committee and FIFA retaliate with the threat of suspending Guatemalan soccer - are ongoing.

So far, it seems discussions have been inconclusive.

If no agreement is reached that satisfies FIFA, then Guatemala's suspension from world soccer on October 1 is expected to see its clubs withdrawn from CCL, among other sanctions. And Antigua will forfeit its last group stage game. And RBNY will progress as group winner, regardless of what happened in the match on September 27.

But it is unwise to depend on FIFA for anything, and any sports team ought to prefer to settle its affairs on the field of play. RBNY will want points to bolster its claim to a high seed for the knockout rounds, and it will want to exit the group stage without the asterisk of FIFA-assisted qualification against its name.

Player to watch

Antigua needs goals, and Agustin Herrera gets them: he has scored eight in 11 league appearances for his club so far this season.

The 31-year-old Mexican is a CCL veteran: he's played in the tournament for Santos Laguna and Comunicaciones. And he knows how to score in Guatemala: in four seasons, he has scored 59 league goals (so far) for three different clubs.

Herrera's record in Guatemalan club soccer soccerway.com

Herrera's record in Guatemalan club soccer